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Berkeley County, WV


Berkeley County is a county located in the Eastern Panhandle region of the U.S. state of West Virginia. As of 2009, the population is 103,854, making it the second-most populous county in West Virginia, behind Kanawha. Its county seat is Martinsburg.

The county lies adjacent to the Washington-Baltimore Metropolitan Area and is one of three counties in Hagerstown-Martinsburg, MD-WV Metropolitan Statistical Area. Due to its proximity to Washington, D.C., Berkeley County is the fastest growing county in the State of West Virginia and among the fastest growing in the entire country.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 322 square miles (834.0 km2), of which 0.14% is water.

Historic Berkeley County, one the first settled areas in the State of West Virginia. In the late 1500s and early 1600s, the Eastern Panhandle was occupied by Hurons. In the 1600s, the Iroquois Confederacy drove the Hurons from the state and used the area as hunting ground during the spring and summer months. Many Quakers and Scotch-Irish Presbyterians, along with the English and Dutch, became Berkeley County residents in the early 1700s. They were followed by Germans who built many of the existing farm complexes. Berkeley County has a wealth of historic, architecturally important buildings dating from the 1740s into the 20th century. Many of these buildings, including several districts and villages, have been researched and placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Berkeley County was reduced in size twice during the 1800s. On January 8, 1801, Jefferson County was formed out of the county's eastern section. Then on February 9, 1820, Morgan County was formed out of the county's western section and parts of Hampshire County. Berkeley County lays at the northern edge of the Shenandoah Valley and has a total area of 322 square miles.

Berkeley County was of strategic importance to both the North and the South during the American Civil War (from 1861 to 1865). The county, and Martinsburg, the county seat, lay at the northern edge of the Shenandoah Valley, and Martinsburg was very important because the main line of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad ran through the town. The rail line was of great importance to both armies. Also, Martinsburg was close to the Union arsenal at Harpers Ferry. Control over Martinsburg changed hands many times during the war, especially prior to the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863. After Gettysburg, the city remained mostly under Union control.

Most of Berkeley County's residents were loyal to the South during the American Civil War. There were seven companies of soldiers recruited from the county: five for the Confederate Army and two for the Union Army. At least six hundred men from Berkeley County served in either the Confederate Army or the Union Army.

Berkeley County was also the home of Maria Isabella "Belle" Boyd, a famous spy for the Confederacy. She was born in Martinsburg on May 9, 1844, and lived there until the outbreak of the war. Her espionage career began on July 4, 1861 when a band of drunken Union soldiers broke into her Martinsburg home intent on raising the United States flag over the house. As the soldiers forced their way into the house (one account has a soldier pushing Belle's mother), berkeleycounty Belle drew a pistol and killed him. A board of inquiry exonerated her actions as justifiable homicide, but sentries were posted around the house and officers kept close track of her activities. She befriended the officers, and at least one of them, Captain Daniel Keily, shared military secrets with her. She conveyed those secrets to Confederate officers via her slave, Eliza Hopewell, who carried the messages in a hollowed-out watch case. She later moved to Front Royal, Virginia to live with an aunt. One evening in mid-May, 1862 General James Shields and his staff conferred in the parlor of the local hotel. Belle hid upstairs and overheard Shields mentioning that he had been ordered east, a move that would reduce the Union Army's strength at Front Royal. Belle reported the news to Colonel Turner Ashby, a Confederate scout. He relayed the information to General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, commander of the Confederate Army. After Jackson took Front Royal on May 23, he penned a note of gratitude to Belle, and named her an honorary Captain. Belle was later arrested by the Union Army for espionage, spent a month in the Old Capitol Prison in Washington, D.C. and was freed in a prisoner exchange. In June 1863, she was arrested again for espionage by the Union Army during a visit to Martinsburg. She remained in custody until December 1, 1863 when, suffering from typhoid, she was allowed to travel to England to regain her strength. While there, she began a stage career and penned her memoirs. After the war, she returned to the United States, toured the western states recounting her exploits as a spy during the war. She died in 1900 in Evansville, Wisconsin.
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As of the census of 2000, there were 75,905 people, 29,569 households, and 20,698 families residing in the county. The population density was 236 people per square mile (91/km²). There were 32,913 housing units at an average density of 102 per square mile (40/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 92.74% White, 4.69% Black or African American, 0.25% Native American, 0.46% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.56% from other races, and 1.28% from two or more races. 1.52% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 29,569 households out of which 33.40% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.60% were married couples living together, 10.70% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.00% were non-families. 24.20% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.20% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.53 and the average family size was 2.99.

In the county, the population was spread out with 25.70% under the age of 18, 8.30% from 18 to 24, 31.30% from 25 to 44, 23.60% from 45 to 64, and 11.20% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 99.10 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.40 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $38,763, and the median income for a family was $44,302. Males had a median income of $32,010 versus $23,351 for females. The per capita income for the county was $17,982. About 8.70% of families and 11.50% of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.60% of those under age 18 and 10.10% of those age 65 or over.
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Highways Serving Area: I-81, I-70, US-11, WV-9, WV-45, WV-51
Railroads: Amtrak, CSX, MARC (2 commuter trains to Washington Union Station and 3 returning trains each day), Winchester & Western
Bus Service: Eastern Panhandle Transit Authority (PanTran –local service).
Airports: Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport (MRB), easy access to Dulles International Airport (IAD), Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI), Reagan National Airport (DCA) and Washington County Airport (HGR).

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Berkeley County offers a variety of industrial andcommercial office space. There are approximately 21 industrial parks in the County which are concentrated in the Martinsburg area. Several of these parks have I-81 frontage or are within a half mile of I-81. For example, Tabler Station Business Park is within a half mile of I-81 (with rail access) and has 326 acres ready for development. berkeleycounty Cumbo Yard Park has frontage on I-81 (with rail access) and has 300 acres ready for development. Price per acre ranges from $55,000 to $125,000.

Martinsburg, the county seat, was founded by Adam Stephen and named in honor of Thomas Bryan Martin, a nephew of Lord Fairfax and member of the Virginia House of Burgesses. It was incorporated in 1778.

Berkeley County is located within the Appalachian mountain system that runs north and south along the eastern region of the United States. The county encompasses three ridges and valleys: North Mountain, Third Hill Mountain, and Sleepy Creek Mountain. Altitude ranges from 300 to 2,200 feet elevation, with the higher regions located primarily in the western part of the county (Doherty, 1972). Rivers and streams in the county include the Potomac River along its northern boundary, Back Creek and Cherry Run in the western part of the county, and Opequon Creek in the east, as well as numerous natural springs.